August 20, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 34

Dr. Wes

Here’s a bright idea: When the light bulb goes off, remind yourself it’s possible to change

By Dr. Wes Browning

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I’m trying to figure out which is the worst bureaucracy in the Seattle area. Finalists are Metro, the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA), City Light, and maybe Puget Sound Energy (PSE). They are all such fine instructive examples of undesired bureaucratization, it’s hard to choose.

One month ago I got a notice from PSE and City Light to let me know that, without me needing to do anything at all, they and my building manager would enter my (SHA) apartment and save me tons of electricity and magnetism by taking away all my cheap incandescent bulbs and replacing them with new space-age, pig-tailish, fluorescent diddly-bob bulbs.

My first thought was that, three years ago, on the occasion of the first time I opened a City Light bill at this address, I immediately went out and got diddly-bob piggy-tailed bulbs and replaced all my cheap incandescent bulbs in a state of panicked desperation, because that first bill had been two-hundred eleventy-bazillion dollars.

Then I remembered: No, I had not changed them all. I had failed to change exactly one of them, namely the annoying overhead bedroom bulb, or, as I would like to say, if I were permitted, the bulb overhead bedroom annoying. I didn’t change it because I had no stepladder.

So I thought: This is wonderful! I will tell them this. You, I will say, have only to use the stepladder you will surely bring, as there are one freaking hundred apartments in this building, and all one freaking hundred have at least one bulb in them so high up as to require a stepladder to change it. And that will be all.

No, I expected too much. Three crack PSE light-bulb-changing experts came and not one stepladder among them. They couldn’t change the one bulb that needed changing — not in my apartment, and not in any of the other 99 in the building. But they still had to check every other bulb in the apartment because they wouldn’t hear me when I told them that all the others had been changed by me three years ago. So no bulbs were changed but motions were went through for no reason. Motions that had had to be paid for, I’m sure.

“John? Did you check the over-stove light? No? I’m checking it now. [Me: I changed it. Three years ago. I changed all of them. Three years ago.] It’s OK John. Checking hall light now. [Me: Really?]”

But PSE is not the likely winner of the bad bureaucracy award. City Light just announced we all are going to get a 4.6 percent increase in our electric bills every year for six years no matter what. Negative inflation? Who cares. That’s over 30 percent after the six years are up. You have to pay whether the economy crashes or not. This is now; that will be the future. Get ready for it, suckers.

But City Light is not the likely winner of the bad bureaucracy award either. There’s Metro, as in Metro Transit. No, I’m wrong. I can’t blame Metro for Metro. Metro is King County, and King County is in the pocket of Seattle-hating politicians. Never mind.

Then there’s SHA, Seattle Housing Authority. Oh boy.

SHA is talking about selling four acres of Yesler Terrace to be developed as a corporate technology campus. The idea is ostensibly to take the money and use it to relocate the current residents in new housing to be built elsewhere.

Rule number one in bureau-o-cracy think: get money, money, money. Fix the problems later, when you can afford a stepladder.

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